June 7, 2022 7:00am

Poll Respondents Are Wary of New Jail

Meanwhile, San Jose Inside Power Poll voters want a gas tax rebate—even the environmentalists.

By Stephen Buel
San Jose, CA Correspondent
 
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Almost 72 percent of poll respondents with an opinion on the issue believe that Santa Clara County should reconsider its plans to construct a new main jail now that the expected cost of the facility has surged by almost $300 million.

In our latest San Jose Inside Power Poll, voters also displayed conflicting attitudes about helping Californians cope with higher gasoline prices. Each of four official proposals to issue some type of tax rebate received the support of roughly two-thirds of our voters, yet an even higher percentage of participants also said the state should not pander to fossil fuel consumers.

Roughly two-thirds of respondents expressed skepticism or doubt that large live events such as the recently cancelled Gilroy Garlic Festival will recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Finally, more than 85 percent of voters believe that the workplace of the future will look profoundly different in the wake of the pandemic.

Here are the specific questions and responses to our poll:

Question 1

County Executive Jeff Smith recently revealed that the cost of building a new main jail has surged from $390 million to $689 million, blaming pandemic-era spikes in the price of construction materials and labor. Smith says the jail is necessary to comply with federal consent decrees related to conditions in the jail system, which he calls substandard. But reform activists and supervisors Susan Ellenberg and Cindy Chavez oppose the facility. Should the county rethink its proposed new jail?

Yes — 64%

No — 25%

No opinion/don’t care — 11%

Question 2

In the wake of record-high gasoline prices, legislators and executives of all political stripes have proposed a variety of gas tax moratoriums. Which of the following proposals do you support? Rank the statements you agree with, with 1 being your highest priority:

The high price of gasoline is contributing to inflation, which is bad for all of us — Score 4.4, 34/40

The governor would issue $400 debit cards to people who own gas- or electric-powered vehicles — Score 3.175, 28/40

Our environmentally enlightened state should not pander to fossil fuel consumers — Score 3.1, 29/40

Senate Democrats would offer $200 per family member to people with household incomes below $250,000 — Score 3.1, 27/40

A gas price shock is exactly the jolt the world needs to go electric — Score 2.85, 28/40

A bipartisan group of legislators would suspend the state’s excise tax for one year, thus benefiting anyone who buys gas in the state — Score 2.8, 27/40

Another proposal would issue $400 rebates to every California taxpayer — Score 2.75, 26/40

Question 3

The Gilroy Garlic Festival of yesteryear is no more. Fest leaders say they no longer plan to hold such massive events due to a money-losing combination of pandemic-related uncertainty, growing unprofitability and surging insurance costs related to wildfires and a 2019 mass shooting. Do you plan to attend such events in the same way that you did before the pandemic?

I’m not sure; I’m more cautious than I used to be — 40%

I don’t think so — 23%

Of course — 21%

No opinion/don’t care — 16%

Question 4

Employees at many businesses have returned to their workplaces fulltime, even as some employers delay plans to mandate in-person attendance and others close offices and reduce footprints. What does the future of work look like to you? ? Rank the statements you agree with, with 1 being your highest priority:

Employees and job-seekers now expect flexibility, and that’s not going away — Score 6.4146, 35/41

This is going to be a workplace bargaining issue for a long time — Score 5.0244, 38/41

Remote work has proven sustainable for many different positions — Score 4.439, 26/41

I now have one or more colleagues who work remotely from far away — Score 3.6829, 26/41

Remote work has proven to be problematic for a variety of reasons — Score 2.9512, 28/41

My employer expects things to return to normal — Score 2.8537, 22/41

Only those employees whose presence is essential are working in person — Score 2.8049, 19/41

Employees at my workplace can make their own decisions — Score 2.561, 22/41

One hundred percent of our staff has returned to our workplace — Score 2.2927, 24/41

Question 5

This question was deleted due to an error in its wording.

Analysis of Question 1

Following the revelation that the estimated cost of building a new main jail for Santa Clara County has increased by almost 77 percent due to pandemic-related inflation in the price of materials and labor, a surprisingly high percentage of our voters now find themselves questioning the wisdom of the facility.

A slim majority of supervisors approved construction of the jail last January, following a delay set in motion by reaction to the murder of George Floyd. Not surprisingly, criminal-justice-reform groups that opposed the facility wasted little time in calling for the board to reassess its decision.

A final vote on the county budget is expected to be taken next week.

Analysis of Question 2

More than 72 percent of participants believe that the state “should not pander to fossil fuel consumers.” And yet, between 65 and 70 percent of those very same panelists support each of California’s four existing proposals for fuel tax relief.

Such ambivalence demonstrates why tax relief measures have proliferated as gasoline prices have surged since Russia invaded Ukraine. Given the very real impacts of such inflation upon consumers, even politicians who are solidly behind efforts to reduce America’s consumption of fossil fuels have gotten on this bandwagon.

It also demonstrates why carbon taxes and other efforts to raise the price of a tank of gasoline have never attracted the same velocity in the United States as they have throughout Europe. Gasoline is simply too essential to an average citizen’s lifestyle.

Consider this; according to the website GlobalPetrolPrices.com, the average American consumes more gas than the citizen of any other country. That’s almost twice as much gas as the average Australian, who consumes more than twice as much as the average Swede, who consumes almost twice as much as the average South Korean, who consumes almost four times as much as the average resident of Hong Kong, who consumes more than four times as much as the average Indian.

Our panelists seem to believe that those who would reduce our thirst for gasoline must find a way to do so without increasing its price.

Analysis of Question 3

When it comes to Covid, Santa Clara County is not your typical county, having clearly established a reputation as one of the most cautious places in the entire United States. That said, it is still a bit surprising that 63 percent of respondents don’t expect to attend large events in the same way that they did before the pandemic. Since attitudes regarding the pandemic are clearly looser in other parts of the state, perhaps a new garlic festival will indeed take root in Stockton.

Analysis of Question 4

When it comes to the workplace of the future, Elon Musk is a clearly an outlier in Silicon Valley. There is widespread agreement among our panelists that work will look different than it did before the pandemic.

Almost 93 percent of respondents expect employees to continue demanding flexible working arrangements for quite some time. More than 63 percent said they now have colleagues who work remotely, and exactly the same percentage view such arrangements as sustainable. Interestingly enough, however, an even higher percentage of respondents said remote work has proven to be problematic, which suggests that many believe not all jobs are equally suited to such flexibility.

Yet like Musk, who recently told Tesla employees to return to their workplaces if they want to keep their jobs, more than half of our respondents’ bosses expect life to return to normal. Until employers and their employees view these issues similarly, it’s reasonable to expect workplace tensions as Covid changes from pandemic to endemic.

San Jose Inside Power Poll is not a scientific poll. Rather, we ask questions of influential people with a wide range of viewpoints to help advance informed dialogue about the city. Power Poll is studiously non-partisan.

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